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Last June, the New York Times published an Opinion Column titled “The Strange Death of Liberal Russophobia,” in which Opinion Columnist Ross Douthat praised the Biden administration for adopting a more “conciliatory” stance towards Russia. Yet just six months later, Biden-nominated U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin accidentally referred to Russia as ‘the Soviet Union’ in connection with the ongoing Ukraine crisis: “Whatever we do will be done as a part of an international community. The best case though is that we won’t see an incursion by the Soviet Union into [Ukraine],” he said.
I recently watched the newest installment in the James Bond Franchise, No Time to Die. Predictably, the villain’s henchmen all spoke Russian. This reflects a deeply-rooted truth: In the United States, Russian is still perceived as the language of the villain.
When I went on an Orange Key Tour as a high school student, my tour guide enthusiastically declared that Princeton is only about an hour by train from Philadelphia and New York City. It was as though my tour guide was trying to compensate for Princeton’s location, for its suburban setting. After becoming a Princeton student, I have found that Princeton’s location is often viewed in a negative or ambiguous light by students themselves.
Princeton is an incredibly competitive institution. During its most recent application cycle, the University accepted only 3.98 percent of applicants. But, as most undergraduates come to realize during their time at Princeton, competition does not end with admission.
After the first week of classes, one thing is apparent: a large portion of the student body has wholeheartedly embraced the University’s “return to normal.” Aside from the University’s indoor masking requirement and the eating clubs’ members-only policy, few indications on campus show that the COVID-19 pandemic is, in fact, still ongoing. Everything from in-person classes and full-capacity dining halls to the widely-attended Pre-rade and Triangle Frosh Week Show contributes to the feeling that we are living in a post-pandemic Princeton. In our highly vaccinated, regularly tested Orange Bubble, it is easy to forget about COVID-19. However, many students do not have the luxury of forgetting.
The evidence abounds: language learning is one of the most fruitful academic pursuits. Not only does learning a second language yield a host of cognitive benefits, but it also supports academic achievement across subjects. Beyond academics, knowledge of a second language increases earning potential — even in STEM professions.
Recently, I was asked by a current student at my high school to chair a virtual Model United Nations (UN) conference that my high school was hosting for its students. If alumni did not volunteer to chair, the student said, current students would lose the opportunity to participate in the conference. Due to COVID-19, conferences students had hoped to attend had either been canceled or moved online with a reduced number of delegates accepted from each high school. Chairing the conference brought me to two important realizations.
The celebration of Women’s History Month in the United States is relatively common knowledge on campus. Throughout March, campus organizations such as the Women*s Center spotlight the struggles and triumphs accompanying women’s momentous fight for equity. As Women’s History Month draws near, we must remember that the celebration of women in March extends beyond U.S. borders. This March 8, we must celebrate women globally on International Women’s Day.
The Office of International Programs’ October announcement that study and research abroad programs will remain suspended during the spring semester surprised few. In the midst of a global pandemic, restrictions on students’ international travel are a small price to pay in the fight against COVID-19. However, as vaccination efforts lag behind and it remains unclear when international travel will normalize, the pandemic’s troubling impacts on research and study abroad must be discussed. The loss of research and study abroad as a tool for generating cross-cultural understanding is especially worrisome in our distanced world.
Spontaneous interactions are rare during the COVID-19 era. Our conversations, except for those that occur with the people we live with, are decidedly deliberate. College publications ranging from The Harvard Gazette to The Daily Princetonian have highlighted college students’ loss of impromptu conversations and casual community during the pandemic.
In 2016, American Sign Language was the third most studied language in American postsecondary schools. That same year, The Daily Princetonian’s Editorial Board released this piece urging Princeton to allow ASL to satisfy the University’s language requirement. Four years later, Princeton has not budged. ASL still does not satisfy the University’s foreign language requirement.
Princeton attracts the world’s brightest minds like moths to a flame. Fortunately for us, the comparison ends there. While students lucky enough to attend the University can expect a phenomenal education, death awaits real moths that approach a flame. Indeed, insects’ fascination with light is fatal.
Princeton students are constantly planning ahead, and for good reason: society rewards those with foresight. In many ways resume-building hinges on one’s ability to recognize how actions taken today can contribute to a successful tomorrow. Students investigate summer opportunities during fall semester as applications for competitive summer internships are often due months in advance. Undergraduates interested in health professions are encouraged to enroll in classes that cover subjects tested on the MCAT as early as freshman year.
In the United States, even viruses discriminate. COVID-19 is making the country’s health gap impossible to ignore. Headlines announcing “Minorities are Disproportionately Dying From Covid-19 at a Younger Age” and “Black and Hispanic Children are Impacted More Severely by Coronavirus, Research Shows” make national news. Highlighting disparities in Americans’ health is an important step in rectifying this inequality. But despite recent media attention given to minorities’ vulnerabilities to COVID, Marshallese Americans’ pandemic plight has failed to garner national, much less campus-wide, attention. We must act now to expand Marshallese access to healthcare.